Why I don't mind not being in Wikipedia

by Peter Rojas

Fred Wilson's talking this week about how a Wikipedia entry about him was deleted for "non-notability". Well, Fred, join the club -- I was deleted from Wikipedia too, and to be honest, I don't mind. Sure, I was a little perplexed when I was voted out by a group of random Wikipedia users, but on the whole I don't mind. Don't get me wrong. I love Wikipedia, it's an amazing resource that I use daily, but as the site has grown it seems like it's also become a place where the disgruntled go to air petty grievances and settle scores. Just check out the pitched battle over Xeni Jardin's entry. It's great that there are people who want to fact-check her entry and make sure it has a Neutral Point of View, but it's obvious that there are a few individuals who simply don't like Xeni and want to make sure that her Wikipedia entry is as negative as possible. After seeing what Xeni's gone through, I don't mind that there isn't a place where people can talk smack about me and pass it off as authoritative and neutral.

Wikipedia's team of volunteer editors do a generally good job of eliminating this kind of stuff and keeping the site clean of vandalism, but the trolls who want to ruin Wikipedia are highly motivated to keep on trying because of the site's status as an authoritative reference (if the information contained within Wikipedia weren't generally considered to be reliable and accurate then it wouldn't be so popular). It's this status which makes getting an attack into an entry irresistable to these people. Why flame someone on a mere message board when you can get your attack stamped with the authority of the "web's encyclopedia"?

The editors of the site know there's a problem and have been working to give some entries a "semi-protected" status that makes them more impervious to trollish behavior. However protecting every entry defeats the point of an open system, and so even though there are no technological limits to how much information the site can contain, there are other barriers, like how many trusted volunteers are available to patrol the site. Wikipedia's response to this barrier has been to create an artificial limit to what can be added to the site; that limit is called "notability". It's their way of keeping on top of things.

What I think Fred finds frustrating is that there appear to be no standards for notability. A couple of other Fred Wilsons who seem less notable than Fred Wilson (the blogging VC) have survived scrutiny. I was deleted, but an entry on Ryan Block, Engadget's managing editor, has so far escaped elimination. The point isn't that Ryan or these other Fred Wilsons are or are not notable, it's that the standards are inconsistent. Of course, any system that relies on a vote of whoever just happens to be paying attention that day is bound to be inconsistent.

At the end of the day being in Wikipedia isn't all that important anyway. It's a nice ego boost (not that my overinflated ego needs any encouragement), but if you're truly notable what matters is the recognition of your peers, not an entry on some website somewhere. I can live without being in Wikipedia.

UPDATE: Apparently someone who reads this blog thought it'd be funny to create a new Wikipedia entry for me. I wasn't kidding about not wanting to be in Wikipedia, so hopefully the editors will delete this attempt to reinstate me. It's not like I've suddenly become more notable or anything.